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Port officials expect the projected 8-foot crest in the Atchafalaya River to exacerbate the buildup of sediment in the Atchafalaya River Bar Channel, Port of Morgan City Executive Director Raymond “Mac” Wade said. The Morgan City Harbor and Terminal District Commission met Monday. National Weather Service forecasters expect the river to crest March 24 near 8 feet in Morgan City. As of this morning, the river was at 5.8 feet in Morgan City near the 6-foot flood stage. The forecast shows the river reaching 7.2 feet Saturday. The temporary flood protection structure is still in place on Bayou Chene and will hold back almost 2 feet high of water if the river reaches 8 feet, Wade said. There hasn’t been any discussion about opening the Morganza Spillway because the Mississippi River levels aren’t high enough, Port Economic Development Manager Cindy Cutrera said. “We’re getting all of this water from the Red River,” Cutrera said. More high water means more sediment buildup in the Atchafalaya River Bar Channel, Wade said. The channel is congressionally authorized to be dredged to 20 feet deep, but the Corps only has funds to dredge a couple of months a year. “We’ve already got a bad problem. It’s just going to make it worse,” Wade said. Some vessels, including import-export ships, cannot travel to the Port of Morgan City right now due to the sediment buildup. The port has about $5.6 million left in dredging funds for the next six months that will all go toward a dredging demonstration using a self-propelled hopper dredge, Wade said.

0208meetingPort of Morgan City Executive Director Raymond “Mac” Wade speaks
during Monday’s port meeting held at the new Government Emergency
and Operations Center.  Behind him are screens showing a view of the
Atchafalaya River in Morgan City and an aerial view of the surrounding waterways.


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The Port of Morgan City’s new Government Emergency Operations Center has gotten quite the test during the past month with multiple agencies operating out of the building on a daily basis. Port officials opened the $11 million center in early January, sooner than they expected because of the high water on the Atchafalaya River. The river crested at 8.18 feet Jan. 22 in Morgan City. “We put this thing through an unbelievable test,” Port of Morgan City Executive Director Raymond “Mac” Wade said. The Louisiana National Guard, Corps of Engineers and Levee District have all used the building regularly as an emergency command center. The port commission held its first monthly meeting in the new two-story, Category 5 hurricane resistant center Monday. It is located on La. 182 in Morgan City adjacent to the Morgan City Municipal Auditorium. “It’s been a very, very busy month,” Wade said. Wade thanked officials for all their hard work during that time. Architect Carl Blum said the center, which is 99 percent complete, has a few “punch list” items that should be in place by March. Almost all furniture is in the building as well. About one third of the parking behind the center is done, he said. State officials have approved the plans for the St. Mary Levee District’s office in the building, and the levee district should be able to move in to its permanent home before the end of the summer, Blum said. On Monday, Wade displayed the Touch Assisted Command and Control System that shows live feed at different spots around the port and on the waterways.

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Morgan City Port Terminal District officials hope to position the city as a lucrative import and export market for small vessels by creating a dredge system that agitates mud and keeps it from sticking to the Lower Atchafalaya River bar channel floor. “Traditional maintenance dredging has failed to provide a reliable channel,” Port Director Raymond “Mac” Wade said in a dredging presentation. “It has negatively impacted and limited our ability to attract new customers.” The current cutter head dredges used are not effective for long term luff management. In order to be cost effective, Wade believes removing small accumulations of fluff through agitation is the answer for managing it. Fluff is a term used to describe the bar channel’s muddy floor. There is an accumulation of 8-10 feet of mud underneath 14 feet of usable water, Wade said. The port is authorized to dredge at 20 feet. “We’ve done engineering studies on this, and agitation is the only way to keep this stuff suspended,” Wade said. Wade uses a Nestlé’s Quik mix and milk analogy to explain how fluff settles in the river and the effects of a new dredging system. “You just throw that Nestlé’s Quik in there and if you don’t do anything it’s going to fall right to the bottom and you can see the layer there,” Wade said. “You stir it up, then that chocolate is all the way consistent and that’s the new approach.” The port developed a demonstration dredging project for 2016 to manage the fluff issues in the bar channel. If the demo project proves to be successful, the long term solution is to construct a dredge specifically for fluff. The request for qualifications begins Jan. 14 for bids on the project to the dredging industry. “We hope to have the dredge down there by late March or April, where we can start the test,” Wade said.

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First floor of new building is '99 percent' done
Above, a flag pole gets installed this morning at the Port of Morgan City’s
Government Emergency and Operations Center on La. 182 in Morgan City.

 Port of Morgan City Executive Director Raymond “Mac” Wade
walks Thursday on the first floor of the port’s new center. The
cubicles shown are set up for U.S. Coast Guard personnel.

In one year, the Port of Morgan City’s $11 million Emergency Operations Center has gone from the planning stages to nearly finishing construction on a one-of-a kind facility for south Louisiana. The two-story, 35,000-square-foot building is expected to house U.S. Coast Guard operations on a daily basis and will serve as an emergency command center during events, such as hurricanes. Officials broke ground for construction of the center Dec. 2, 2014. The Category 5 hurricane resistant center is located on La. 182 in Morgan City, adjacent to the Morgan City Municipal Auditorium. Work is 99 percent complete on the first floor, while the second floor is 90 to 95 percent done, port officials said. Elevators have been installed in the building. Port of Morgan City Executive Director Raymond “Mac” Wade said in June that once the center opens, there will be no facility in Louisiana that can rival it in terms of is sturdiness. Wade called it a “state-of-the-art” facility. The center is being paid for by $7.1 million in state money and $3.9 million in Port of Morgan City funds. State officials track all money spent on the center extraordinarily closely, architect Carl Blum said. “Anybody who tells you the state is foolishly spending money has never dealt with the state,” Blum said. “They watch every dime (spent).”

Manson Construction Co. began dredging Berwick Bay Sept. 19 and will finish the project in
about a month.  The contract dredged about a 3-mile stretch from 20 Grand Point and
Tidewater Point to Stouts Pass. Dredging should start in the Atchafalaya River Bar Channel
Oct. 29 and could last up to 100 days.

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Dredging work is ongoing in Berwick Bay and set to begin in the Atchafalaya River Bar Channel by the end of October in an effort to keep the area’s waterways deep enough for vessels to navigate. Workers began routine maintenance dredging of Berwick Bay in the Atchafalaya River Sept. 19 as part of a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers contract and will probably finish in about another month, Port of Morgan City Executive Director Raymond “Mac” Wade said. The work cost roughly $2.5 million to dredge a 3-mile stretch, which entailed going from Tidewater Point and 20 Grand Point, under the U.S. 90 and La. 182 bridges, and north to Stouts Pass, Wade said. Berwick Bay is being dredged to about 12 feet deep along the edges of the Morgan City side of the bay. However, the middle of the bay doesn’t need to be dredged and is 45 feet to 60 feet deep. The Berwick side of the bay also doesn’t have any depth issues, Wade said. There haven’t been any vessel traffic issues reported due to the dredge being in use, said Coast Guard Capt. David McClellan, commanding officer of Marine Safety Unit Morgan City.

Mac Wade, director of the Port of Morgan City, was the August guest of the Bayouland Emergency Amateur Radio Service. He presented an in-depth assessment of the port's responsibilities and long-range goals. Of particular interest was an update on the new emergency center that is nearing completion and the role that communication will play in this new building.  Another meeting with the BEARS and other interested citizens will be held at the port office so the members can view a power point presentation and view the various maps to become more aware of the role the port and the Atchafalaya play in everyday life in Morgan City.

Published by Daily Review 09/17/15


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